Monday, July 29, 2013

William Lane Craig's Debates (Mini-Reviews) UP-DATED: 9-19-2013


Craig is a formidable debate opponent. Luke M., who used to run the very awesome Common Sense Atheism blog, wrote extensively on WLC, his arguments, style and influence. He has one page that gives mini-reviews for Crag's debates found here.

I have been posting a lot of reviews of Craig's debates, but there are a bunch more that I have heard and probably will never have time to review. Because he usually sticks to the same arguments, I think a super post (one that is constantly updated, too), with mini-reviews of his debates would be more useful. I will still dedicate whole posts to a given debate of his if I think it will contain interesting content (or if people request it) but I will mostly update this page.

Following in Luke's footsteps I have decided to stick to the same categories he used (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly). I have also decided to grade slightly harsher, something you'll notice when you look at my full reviews for some of these debates.

Before I continue, these are the two links I use to get WLC debates: PhilVaz and Apologetics315

The debates are in the rough order: best to worst, for example, the first debate listed in the Ugly section is the least ugly debate. CHECK the bottom of the post for updates!

The Good 

Parsons v Craig 1998 Why I am/am not a Christian (1st Debate) 
( audio | video 1 & 2 | review | 2h 11m 50s ) | Luke's rating: Good

This is the one debate I can say, hands down, that Craig lost. Parsons had Craig on every argument and was fun to listen to. Parsons was able to address everything Craig threw out that was relevant to the debate. Craig couldn't rely on his KCA, MA and FTA for this one (look at the debate topic) and Parsons even nailed Craig on using his personal experience argument in a great way. Craig got a HUGE laugh from the audience at one point, it was too much, but Parsons recovered and definitely came away from this one as the victor. This is the best Craig debate, imo. 

Kagan v Craig 2009 Is God Necessary for Morality?
( audio | video | review | 1h 30m 15s ) | Luke's rating: Good?

Kagan is another guy who comes out of nowhere and devastates Craig. Besides the fact that Kagan knows his stuff, argues against the points made by Craig and presents a positive case for morality without god, he also nails Craig on a lot of things that he usually gets away with in other debates. Kagan also got some perks in this event rarely seen in a Craig debate: he goes first and it is mostly an informal discussion.

Sinnott-Armstrong v Craig 1999 Problem of Evil
( audio | video | review | 1h 25m 57s ) | Luke's rating: Good (though he's referring to their book more so...)

S-A does a great job of explicitly laying out how morally bankrupt it is to deal out eternal punishment for finite transgressions. The debate has a slightly more informal setting, so S-A is further able to call Craig out on saying, "my opponent didn't respond to x and/or y argument..." making me wish that Craig was more open to doing informal debate events and at the same time remember why it is that he isn't too fond of them.

Ahmed v Craig 2005 Is Belief in God More Reasonable Than Disbelief?  
( audio | video | review | 1h 50m 24s ) | Luke's rating: Bad

Ahmed misses a few things but he still comes out strong in this one. Ahmed is very concise and precise, he also has a few good zingers throughout the debate. Not only does Ahmed know how to condense his arguments and lucidly discuss them, but he is also very impassioned and charming. He is one of my favorite atheist debaters and I would love to see these two go at it again. His example he gave for accepting the resurrection and reply to Craig's argument that atheists cannot condemn the atrocities of the bible or religious folk because of his rejection of DCT are both particularly great moments in the debate, too.

Ehrman v Craig 2006 Resurrection
( audio | video | review | 1h 54m 56s ) | Luke's rating: Bad because...

Ehrman is full of passion about the topic and keeps his case nice and simple. He also calls Craig out on not addressing whether or not the gospels can be taken as completely accurate. He also presents scenarios that can account for the empty tomb that certainly are more plausible than godidit, scenarios which are weakly dismissed by Craig. Craig also spends a bit too much time trying to explain Bayes Theorem that Ehrman promptly rejects.

Bradley v Craig 1995 God and Hell
( audio | video | review | 1h 15m 16s ) | Luke's rating: Good

This is another one where Craig pretty much lost. To be fair, it's a hard argument to counter: how can a loving god send people to Hell - but Craig does do his best. The thing is that Bradley did his homework. He was prepared, lucid, passionate and didn't let Craig get away with anything. This one gets pretty technical; they talk about possible worlds and free will and I'm still not sure if Craig was right that heaven isn't a pw, conceded the point or managed to slip away from being called out on it. This debate was a little short but it emphasized cross-examination - the bane of WL Craig.

I agree with Luke in that Bradley's concluding speech was especially weak, unfortunately.

Tabash v Craig 1999 Secular Humanism vs Christianity
( audio | video | review | 1h 42m 10s) | Luke's rating: Good

Tabash knows his stuff. He had Craig flip a coin to see who went first and won. Tabash comes out like a whirlwind and Craig barely keeps up. Tabash does a good job of addressing Craig's arguments but it would have been better if he made a more posi argument for Secular Humanism, something that Craig was smart to note.

Avalos v Craig 2004 Resurrection
( audio | video | review | 1h 59m 57s ) | Luke's rating: Bad, though it sounds like he liked it when he interviewed Avalos.

Here both parties do well though their tactical strategies weren't the best: Craig started out by spending 5 minutes attacking Avalos for arguments he made in a previous debate and Avalos' language sounded like he was attacking Craig and not the arguments. Avalos does get specific in this one and he uses arguments that had Craig scrambling to respond in his and brings up arguments that Craig gives feeble answers to, but he doesn't address Craig's arguments as explicitly as Craig does and his language sounds like he is attacking Craig and not the arguments.

Stenger v Craig 2003 Is There a God? (1st Debate)
( audio | video | review | 2h 32m 55s ) | Luke's rating: Good    

Stenger does the best job of showing the flaws in Craig's arguments concerning more mathy and sciency topics. Like Luke says, he doesn't let Craig get away with nearly as much stuff as he does in his other debates. Stenger also sounds very laid back and his arguments are pretty straight forward/interesting, especially his analogy about logical consistency and video games. 

Dacey v Craig 2005 Does God Exist? (2nd Debate)  
( audio | video | review | 2h 8m 11s ) | Luke's rating: Good

Dacey does better here, he sounds a little less meek. They do cover the same ground in the debate they had the year prior (listed below) but Dacey is able to address Craig's arguments a bit more because he consolidated his time a little better. The thing is that Craig actually does pretty well too! I'll be frank, I mix these two Dacey debates up a bit, because they're so similar the same arguments are thrown around, and this time Craig is able to address some of them a little bit more specifically cause he learned from the last debate.

Pigliucci v Craig 2001 Does the Christian God Exist?
( audio | video | review | 2h 34m 48s ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Great debate. Both guys do a great job and Pigliucci really nails home the idea that Craig agreed to defend the Christian god so Craig couldn't fall back on hoping the audience gets the impression that when he uses the KCA, FTA and MA, he's not only presenting evidence for a generic god or gods, but for the Christian god. This debate is pretty fun too, lots of Q&A at the end with good back and forth.

The Bad

Tooley v Craig 2010 Is God Real?
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Tooley does a good job of explaining the tactics that Craig uses and even has Craig on the ropes a few times. The bummer is that Tooley's own arguments seemed really technical and it was obvious that Craig knew the audience probably felt so, as well. Craig plays that issue up in his responses and Tooley doesn't sound as forceful as one would hope.

Two things that stand out are that Tooley does a good job of pointing out how Craig hasn't taken the time to address better, non-theistic forms of morality and drawing attention to Craig's slide from defending the Christian god to defending a more generic philosophers' god.

I would suggest checking this one out and would also mention that I am probably gonna give it another listen.

Draper v Craig 1997 The Existence of God
( audio | video | review | 1h 26m 25s ) | Luke's rating: Bad

This debate is pretty decent, though a little short. Draper is an agnostic and brings up great arguments and sticks with them as well as sticks to calling Craig out on things. The main issue is that agnostics have to be fundamentally on the fence about things and can't concede too explicitly that things are impossible and Craig is notorious for his retreat to the possible, so Draper ultimately doesn't come out as strong as he probably would have if given more time and if debating against only the Christian god.

Price v Craig 1999 Resurrection
( audio | video | review | 2h 32m 20s ) | Luke's rating: Good

Price has a pretty no-BS first speech, but it mostly attacks Craig's apologetic motives and barely touches on the topic. Despite showing the dishonest goals of Craig's MO, Craig was still able to dismiss this assualt by showing how it is irrelevant to the debate. Furthermore, Price doesn't follow it up too much and stays on topic for the remainder of the debate making you wonder how much better he would have done, if he shortened his criticism of Craig in his first speech and gave more arguments relevant to the debate topic.

Carrier v Craig 2009 Resurrection
( audio | video | review | 2h 31m 26s ) | Luke's rating: Disappointing

I think Carrier did better than he and others thought, but he still let Craig get away with too many things. Craig was also smarmy-er than usual in this one. Carrier also runs out of time due to being flustered and not organizing his points enough, something you simply can't do against Craig. This one is better than what others have said about it though, that's for sure. Carrier's first speech was just about flawless and it's a shame that Craig won't debate him again.

Crossley v Craig 2007 Resurrection 
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Bad

Crossley does well, especially at first. He has a good opening and gets the audience on his side. He went with a more humorous approach but kind of dropped it in response to Craig's rebuttals. Again, the more content-dense presentations and organized structure of Craig's arguments has him pulling ahead. Craig's ability to give more specific and relevant arguments that cite the work of his opponents is very impressive and it is so rare that you hear his opponents do the same that it becomes frustrating. 

Of course Crossley is an academic in the field so it's easier to find his work and cite it where as most of Craig's work is already written in an apologetic format. It is easier to find things in the former that would be difficult to respond to in a debate format than in the latter, the latter is already written to conform to such a format!

Brown v Craig 2009 Does God Exist??
( audio | review | 2h 9m 37s ) | Luke's rating: Bad

Brown starts off with a rambling opening speech. It seems like he knows what he's talking about, but he just wasn't sure what kind of debate he was in for with Craig. When Craig throws down in his first rebuttal, Brown figures it out and comes back and does a good job. He's just not focused enough to handle Craig and engages with the arguments too late in the game, however.

Law v Craig 2011 Does God Exist?
( audio | video | review | 2h 3m 37s ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Law wins this is a very weird way. His tactics are very different from Craig's and it sounds like Law doesn't really address Craig's arguments at all. Law relies heavily on his Evil God Hypothesis, which certainly disproves the Christian god, but it takes a lot more fleshing out to disprove the philosopher's deity that Craig is so good at defending. Law still holds his own, and slams Craig a few times in the more informal back and forth at the end. But Law definitely would have come off a lot better if the debate was about the Christian God. I do like his argument against Craig's MA, in that no one really holds to such a absolute and weird form of evolutionary ethics as the one that Craig always describes and further, gets away with ascribing to the atheist.

Cavin v Craig 1995 Resurrection
( audio | review | 1h 33m 20s ) | Luke's rating: Bad (though interesting)

Cavin does a great job and comes at the resurrection with a more novel approach. He is kind of stuck with his pet hypothesis, the Jesus twin hypothesis, which he doesn't really defend too much and it seems like Cavin's point with that hypothesis is: that even something as weird as Jesus having a twin who made it look like he resurrected is still more plausible then god supernaturally raising him from the dead. But this is lost on the audience and Craig makes sure of that.

Dacey v Craig 2004 Does God Exist? (1st Debate)
( audio | video | review | 1h 59m 33s ) | Luke's rating: Good

Dacey is a little more timid than he is in the debate he had with Craig a year later. He still gives a good show, addresses almost all of Craig's arguments and gives positive arguments for atheism. This one is barelyyyyy bad...maybe it should be labeled a good debate...I should give it another listen.

Hoover v Craig 2008 Resurrection
( audio | video | review | 2h 1m 46s ) | Luke's rating: Bad

Hoover does a solid job of showing how the resurrection of someone was a concept isn't as amazingly radical (to contemporary Jews) and groundbreaking as apologists make it out to be. But Craig is too organized and gives too many arguments for Hoover to keep up with. I mention the resurrection in Jewish thought thing because in other debates Craig tries to show how referring to other religions having resurrection stories is irrelevant to the "very Jewish" Jesus story, but instead Craig notes that all the resurrections Hoover refers to, show a reliance on a bodily resurrection. Heads I win, tails you lose. This eliminates the spiritual resurrection argument from Hoover's debate repertoire. CURSES! Hoover also squanders his cross-examination time, which is a shame because that and Q&A are when Craig is at his weakest.

Ahmed & Copson v Craig & Williams 2011 Is God a Delusion? 
( audio | video | review | 1h 31m 11s ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

I'm not sure where to put this as it was more of a debate between Copson and Williams. Ahmed and Craig don't really come in until the end and don't say all too much. Ahmed and Copson come off as charming whereas I can only remember Williams giving a weird analogy about socks and Craig having to deal with rather lame questions from the floor. 

Shook v Craig 2008 The Existence of God
( audio | video | review | 2h 18m 26s ) | Luke's rating: Bad

Shook certainly had Craig fighting for the audience's favor and was pretty zingy, but he just didn't really present his arguments or counter Craig's arguments too clearly. They were also kind of weak and uninspired. Shook would also take awhile to say something that shouldn't take all that long, especially when answering a question near the end about certainty and testing.

Antony v Craig 2008 Is God Necessary for Morality?
( audio 1 & 2 | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Ugly

Antony does a decent job of explaining how there are ways we can come up with a moral framework without relying on the supernatural, but she doesn't bring anything too explicit to the table (like Kagan) and it comes off as too obvious that she is reading from a script. That isn't a bad thing, but it doesn't look too hot when compared to Craig. Ultimately, her speeches sound more like lectures and she is just too vague.

Stenger v Craig 2010 The Existence of God (2nd Debate)
( audio | video | review | 2h 12m 11s ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Stenger does alright in this one. He doesn't seem as organized as he is in their 2003 debate. Stenger especially becomes scattered in his closing speech, however. Overall, just a disappointing debate.

The Ugly 

Pyle v Craig 2007 G?
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating:Unrated

This debate was supposed to be about Christianity, specifically, but Craig gets away with simply arguing for the generic philosopher's god. He's more organized and Pyle refuses to offer any positive cases for atheism/naturalism. Pyle does get Craig on one thing and he really slams him about it, it's too bad that it gets lost in all the other arguments because Craig responds to it miserably, I mean miserably. But like I mentioned, it gets lost amongst the other arguments. Here's a link to what the argument discussed.

Hitchens v Craig+EVERYONE 2009 
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Craig is barely in this one, it's all Hitch's show. When Craig does come in, he seems more like the fatherly voice of logic between the polemical Hitch, the bizarre arguments of the moderator, Doug Wilson and the other forgettable apologists. Craig does come in at the end and gets all condescending about Hitch not answering all the arguments and says he should prepare more in their up coming debate. Shame on Hitch!...for not answering all the arguments brought up by five different opponents in less than 90 minutes...Craig says something like, "I noted that there are 10 arguments Christopher wasn't able to address..." oh come on...

Millican v Craig 2011 Does God Exist?
( audio | video | review | 2h 23m 19s ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Millican is definitely new to this debate schtick but he has a great opening and, though weakly, counters several of Craig's arguments. But alas, he, like many others, just can't keep up. An interesting side note: Millican gets pretty passionate during the Q&A about evolution. Maybe cause Craig wants to debate biologists so much (Dawkins and Coyne), he should face someone who at least has such a passion for the topic, like Millican if they're not taking him up on his offers.

Slezak v Craig 2008? Atheism v Christianity
( audio | video | review | 1h 28m 19s ) | Luke's rating: Bad

Slezak starts off strong but Craig is in good form for this debate. If it is the case that Slezak wasn't wishy-washy about his position on evidence against the existence of god, then Craig sure was convincing in arguing that he was. Slezak just loses steam as the debate continues, he's a decent speaker though, which was such a shame.

Harris v Craig 2011 God without God?
( audio | video | review | 2h 3m 46s ) | Luke's rating: I think "Ugly"...

Harris is a good critic of religion and good at showing the absurd by-products of religious thought, but the debate was about morality, not about making fun of transubstantiation. Apparently Harris purposely chose to not conform to Craig's structuring of the debate, but it woulda been nice if he actually pointed that out in the debate.

Wolpert v Craig 2009 Is God a Delusion?
( audio | video | review | 1h 47m 56s ) | Luke's rating: Ugly

Wolpert is all over the place in his first speech. When Craig slams him in the rebuttal Wolpert sounds down-right amazed and befuddled and just couldn't keep up and organize a defense or an offense. Another debate where someone lectures and the other guy debates.
DiCarlo v Craig 2009 Does God Matter?   
( audio | video | review | 1h 38m 32s ) | Luke's rating: Ugly

I agree with Luke, this debate was a mess. It was nice to hear Craig change up his schtick due to the different debate topic, but DiCarlo is just an awful debater and doesn't bring anything interesting to the table. DiCarlo drops the ball in another debate against other apologists, despite even having Matt Dillahunty on his side.

Rosenberg v Craig 2013  Is Faith in God Reasonable? 
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Craig gives eight arguments for this debate! Eight! I don't see why, considering Rosenberg just had no idea what he was doing and kept trying to shame Craig about something concerning the Holocaust for some reason.This debate was brutal.

Barrier v Craig 2000 Does God Exist?
( audio | video | review | 1h 30m 14s ) | Luke's rating: Ugly

Barrier only superficially touches Craig's arguments. Another agreement with Luke: Craig walks all over Barrier and Barrier just gets more frazzled and less coherent as the debate continues. Painful to listen to. 

Dawkins, Shermer & Ridley v Craig, Geivett & Wolpe 2010 Does the Universe have Purpose? 
( audio | video | review | 1h 43m 28s ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

This debate is all over the place. I only listened to it cause it semi-fulfilled Craig's wet dream: a debate with Dawkins. The debate blew. The topic was stupid, the parameters were stupid, only the theists really touched on the stupid topic and it was short as hell, too. The only kinda interesting thing was the questions from other noted folk that attended the conference, but they all sounded like they just wanted to give good soundbites and make catchy zingers. Bleh.

Zindler v Craig 1993 Atheism v Christianity
( audio | video | review | 2h 17m 32s ) | Luke's rating: Bad

Zindler gets slapped around in this debate. Craig has a bit more spit and vinegar in him in this one too so that doesn't help. He's also got a pretty heavy home court advantage and he is certainly able to take advantage of his audience with his statements concerning evolution and defining atheism. You can tell he is just trying to please the crowd when he makes fun of Zindler for musing on the existence of the three wise men in the nativity story, one that is rejected by most scholars...God impregnating a virgin with his son who is also god so he is also the father=legit, three wise men visiting a manger a long time ago? Get real! 

Crossan v Craig 1995 Resurrection 
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Ugly

Again, I agree with Luke on this one. Crossan definitely came to the debate to lecture. What is worse is that Crossan is very incoherent, as well. He is all over the place, talks generally and gives confusing presentations. Craig isn't too great in this debate either, he tries to paint Crossan into the naturalist corner throughout the debate and where a more sharp opponent would call Craig out on this, Crossan just muddles through his vague, wishy-washy view on theism. Maybe Craig knew that Crossan would miserably respond to his accusations? It still seemed like such a waste.

This debate was moderated by Bill Buckley Jr, too. The guy is certainly eloquent and sharp but his absolute reverence for god is kind of off-putting and certainly doesn't help in his ability to moderate. I don't mind if a mod is biased but they should still do their job and make sure the discussion is moving and not getting bogged down. Way too much time was spent on rather stupid questions like whether or not god existed during the Jurassic period...


I do not think that Craig is as convincing as Luke and others claim he is - nor do I think he's won nearly all his debates. But as you can see from the above posts, I do think he is a very formidable opponent who has bested even some of my favorite atheist thinkers (example: Hitch and Carrier).  

Craig's debate style (aside from the more slippery maneuvers he utilizes) is also very impressive and one that I hope will inform the presentations I would make in future debates: always going first, keeping your opponent on the defensive, calling your opponent out on not addressing all of your arguments and having a denser presentation wrt content are very successful avenues to travel towards winning a debate - and Craig makes sure to always do these things.

Now, does that mean that Craig's arguments are right? No. Does that mean Craig has won most of his debates? No. Does it mean that Craig is a person who holds a worldview that we should all admire? Gods no. He's still fun to listen to, though!


The following are debates that I have yet to listen to or watch. Some of them have been reviewed by Luke. Some of the above debates and those below might come up in a post if I feel they need more commentary. Be sure to check the reviews I link to for those debates I have already reviewed to see more of my thoughts and links to other reviews!

I'm also not the only one who's reviewed a buttload of Craig debates, here's a few links:

Ed Turner of MSP isn't as impressed with Craig as Luke or others are.

Damion at APF is a little more charitable towards Craig's opponents.

Wintery Knight thinks that all Xians, ESPECIALLY Craig win all their debates, ever.

The Unseen
Kurtz v Craig
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Bad

Desouza v Craig
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Bad

Hardin v Craig
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Ugly

Ludemann v Craig 1997 Resurrection (1st Debate)
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Ugly

Atkins v Craig 1998 What's the Evidence For/Against God? (1st Debate)
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Ugly

Flew v Craig 1998 Does God Exist?
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Ugly

Borg v Craig 2001 Resurrection
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Ugly

Ludemann v Craig 2002 Resurrection (2nd Debate)
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Ugly

Spong v Craig 2005 Resurrection
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Ugly

Begon v Craig 2007 G?     
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Ugly?

Ayala v Craig 2009 ID
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Ugly?

Hitchens v Craig 2009 G?  
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Ugly?

Grayling v Craig 2005 G? PE
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Tannsjo v Craig 2009 Moral  
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Silverman v Craig 2010 G? 
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Williamson v Craig 2011 G?
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Krauss v Craig 2011 Is There Evidence for God? 
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Kappel v Craig 2011 G?
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Atkins v Craig 2011  G?
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Enqvist v Craig 2012 G?
( audio | video | review | length ) | Luke's rating: Unrated

Craig debates I hope to review in the near future

Atkins 1998 - Craig apparently devastates him and I wanna hear more of the "ugly" Craig debates.

Silverman 2010 - I don't know anything about him as a debater, just that he is known for being the guy in this meme.

RE: 7-30-2013; I rushed this post out, for some reason...I went through and cleaned up a lot of the reviews, editing-wise. 

8-13-2013 Reviewed the Zindler debate.  
9-19-2013 Reviewed the Crossan, Crossley, Tooley and Pyle debates. Of those guys, Tooley does the best.

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